Connections - October 2013

Wed, 10/30/2013
Roswellness Connections
A Message from the President

Dr. Donald TrumpOctober at RPCI was dedicated to promoting early diagnosis and screening in the number one cancer in men, prostate cancer.  During the month, we held two events to encourage early detection and screening among high risk populations: Know Your Statistics at Ralph Wilson Stadium and Cruisin’ for a Cure here on the grounds of RPCI. The events educated men 40 and older about risk factors for prostate cancer and offered free screening tests performed by RPCI doctors. More than 250 men from across Western New York attended. 

Spreading awareness about prostate cancer is critical. One in seven men will be diagnosed at some point in their lifetime. While more than 238,000 new cases will be diagnosed each year, nearly 30,000 men will lose their battle.

Prostate cancer affects more African-American men than Caucasian men. African-Americans are 1.5 times more likely to develop prostate cancer and two to three times more likely to die of the disease. It’s also the most-diagnosed cancer in Hispanic men in the U.S. Men from these groups also have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer at an earlier age than Caucasian men, which is why we have dedicated significant resources toward raising awareness among these groups.  With earlier detection, all men can have the same outcome.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends prostate specific antigen (PSA)-based screening for men who have symptoms, especially those over age 40. However, prostate cancer is known to grow slowly – or not at all – and early prostate cancer often causes no symptoms, so it is crucial for all men to talk to their doctors and be proactive in understanding whether early detection testing is right for them. With early detection, about 90 percent of prostate cancers will be cured.

As RPCI continues to promote early detection and testing, our dedicated scientists are still looking for better ways to screen and treat prostate cancer. By further understanding prostate cancer, we can continue to find cancer cures and save lives.  

-Donald L. Trump, MD, FACP
President & CEO

Institute News

RPCI Receives Ovarian Cancer SPORE Grant

Survival rates remain poor for women diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer—and more than 75 percent of patients fall into that category, with the disease claiming 14,030 lives each year. Now, with more than $11 million in funding from the National Cancer Institute, Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI), in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), will embark on an aggressive, multi-pronged search for ways to prevent and cure it.

Dr. Adjei Leads New, Second-Line Lung Cancer Treatment Study

RPCI and Nektar Therapeutics (NASDAQ:NKTR) recently announced a phase II investigator-sponsored study of etirinotecan pegol in patients with relapsed or refractory small-cell lung cancer. The study is being conducted at Roswell Park under the direction of Alex Adjei, MD, PhD, FACP, Senior Vice President for Clinical Research and Chair of the Department of Medicine at RPCI.

What Fuels Tumor Growth, and How to Hinder its Progression

Researchers at RPCI have uncovered a new pathway by which cancer cells, such as in breast cancer, stimulate the expansion of myeloid-derived suppressor cells, a blood cell population known to interfere with the body’s anti-tumor response. The findings shed new light on the pathological events that fuel tumor growth and could lead to the development of new therapies to hinder it.

Donor Dollars at Work

Searching for New Ways to Treat Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is one of the most challenging deadly cancers because it can appear with little warning in an advanced form.  Initial treatment focuses on surgically removing as much tumor as possible and employing chemotherapy to destroy any remaining cancer cells.  Unfortunately, this cancer adapts rapidly and a woman and her oncologist fight off relapses by looking for the right combination of drugs for her cancer.  

With funding from the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, Kevin Eng, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology, and his team are attacking this problem from two angles. First, they are sifting through patient records for common treatment patterns that lead to long recurrence-free periods. Do women do better with aggressive, up-front treatment? Or do they do better when they cycle through drugs that exploit different weaknesses in the cancer? 

“Recent studies have shown that ovarian cancers are genetically distinct from one another, which contributes to the difficulty in treating them,” said Dr. Eng. “So, in our second approach, we are collecting genomic data from cancers that respond to or do not respond to chemotherapy.  This information will be used to predict the best treatment combination or to rule out less effective therapies for specific patients. “

When combined, these two approaches may give researchers a way to help new patients and their doctors make better decisions about treatments using drugs that are already available. Scientifically, Dr. Eng hopes to find new insights that will lead to new treatments or novel ways to target the right therapy.

Dr. Eng joined Roswell Park Cancer Institute as an assistant professor in 2013. He earned his MS and PhD in Statistics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In addition to postdoctoral training in cancer genomics, he trained at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in biostatistics. To learn more about him, view his biography here:

The Cancer Experts

Roswell Park faculty members regularly share their expertise with major national media outlets and oncology publications. Some recent examples:

Dr. Kunle Odunsi to Spirit (In-flight magazine for Southwest and Airtran):  “There’s a need to develop novel and effective therapies that are nontoxic and that harness the body’s immune response to fight ovarian cancer. This research is a combination of all the understandings that we have built over more than a decade. Whether a patient is newly diagnosed, in remission or has suffered relapse of ovarian cancer, in this SPORE we have something for you.”

Dr. Denise Rokitka to Oncology Times: Article explores findings of a study published in International Journal of Cancer.  The study found that first-degree relatives of pediatric cancer patients are twice to four times more likely to develop malignancy when compared to first-degree relatives of children without cancer. This study is unique because it “provides more detailed and more accurate information than was previously available on familial cancer history of patients with pediatric cancer,” said Dr. Rokitka.

In a separate article in Oncology Times, Dr. Rokitka shared that: “…patients and their families need to be given information about the impact of pelvic irradiation and exposure to alkylating chemotherapeutic agents on fertility. While this risk is difficult to estimate, education regarding the possibility of infertility and discussion about possible fertility options is extremely important," she added.

Sponsor Spotlight

Sephora in the Walden Galleria

The visionary beauty-retail store Sephora, in the Walden Galleria, Cheektowaga, NY, helps people look and feel good on the outside while supporting a great cause. Emily Konesky, the store’s assistant manager, was diagnosed with stage three malignant melanoma three days after her 19 birthday in 2005. Since her diagnosis, the team at Sephora has helped Emily speak up and give back to those affected by cancer.

Sephora has proudly supported Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI), and helped raise awareness of cancer so one day a cure can be found. Sephora has held several special events for RPCI patients and employees, including a private makeup event for members of Teens Living with Cancer. The Sephora team members, including Emily, donated their time to provide free and fun makeup applications to seven teenage girls currently undergoing or post treatment. The store has also donated to various fundraising event basket raffles.

“With cancer, if it's not you, it’s someone you know. Unfortunately, my store is no stranger to cancer. I am so proud of my team's passionate dedication to raising awareness and lifting the spirits of those affected by this disease, and so incredibly grateful to work for a company that allows us to do so,” said Emily. “Our store does the things that we do to remind those dealing with a diagnosis that they are not forgotten, they are beautiful inside and out, and we celebrate them.”

Sephora, with Emily by its side, hopes to continue spreading the word and helping Roswell Park Cancer Institute find cancer cures and save lives.

Sephora is a leading chain of perfume and cosmetics highly regarded as a beauty trailblazer, thanks to its unparalleled assortment of prestigious products, unbiased service from experts, interactive shopping environment and innovation.

Events and Promotions

Pink Wall of Hope

Support a loved one with a brick on the Pink Wall of Hope at Chef’s Restaurant. For a limited time, purchasers will also receive a free pink 97 Rock cap.

Bricks are available for of $25 online or $20 at Chef’s Restaurant. The Pink Wall of Hope is a partnership between Chef’s and 97 Rock that raises funds for breast cancer research at Roswell Park.

Paint Box Holiday Cards

The holiday season will be here soon! Check out the Paint Box holiday collection to send cards this year designed by Roswell Park’s pediatric patients and their families.

Cards and gifts can be purchased online and a portion of the proceeds will fund patient support programs at RPCI. Most cards and gifts in the collection can be personalized. Get a head start on the holidays here.

RPCI in the News
You Should Know

Time for Your Flu Shot!

More Americans are getting the annual influenza (flu) vaccine, but overall rates are still low, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As a result, the CDC urges everyone age six months and older to get the flu vaccine.

Each year, about 5 percent to 20 percent of Americans come down with influenza, leading to 200,000 hospitalizations, including about 20,000 children under age five. More than simply a bothersome winter illness, the flu can be life-threatening, especially to people over age 65, children younger than five, and anyone with a medical condition such as cancer, asthma, diabetes, heart and lung disease. People with weakened immune systems, such as those undergoing chemotherapy, are at increased risk for complications from the flu.

It’s very important for family members and caregivers of people in these high-risk groups to receive the vaccine, too. Several types of the vaccine are available this year including a high-dose shot for seniors, a nasal spray and small-needle and egg-free versions.

“Roswell Park strongly encourages all of our employees to get the flu shot,” said Brahm Segal, MD, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. “This is the most effective way to prevent our patients, visitors and coworkers from getting the flu.”